Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Usual Suspects

"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing the world he didn't exist." Verbil Kint, Kevin Spacey.

Who is Keyser soze?
This is the question that resides over the film The Usual Suspects, and one that resides over pretty much every review of this movie ever written. This question is The Usual Suspects.
I feel I'm in a unique position to critique this film. A year ago, I was reading the special cops and robbers edition of empire when I flip to the results of the reader poll for the top 20 cops and criminals in movie history. And there it is, staring me in the face, At number three, the character in the movie who is Keyser Soze/Keyser Soze. There was no attempt to hide it. It wasn't in the fine print. Any random person flipping through pages would have suddenly known the one of the greatest twists in film history. So I came into The Usual Suspects completely immune to the twists and turns it was portraying and saw it more as a work of art, as it's own self contained piece. Not leaving the theatre in love with it just because it duped me(which it probably would have).

And that I think is the problem with The Usual Suspects. The whole movie relies on how shocked you are by the twist ending. Otherwise it is a normal crime caper. It really is just this film where layers are put on for layers sake and when you take away those layers you find out that there really is nothing there. But it's the peeling of these layers that does provide a satisfaction that lasts throughout the movie. And when these layers reach its climax and we learn the truth, it is a great moment.
The difference between this and another huge twist ending movie of the same decade, Fight Club, is that Fight Club could still be a great movie without the twist, but with it the movie enters the cultural lexicon. Plus there's the fact that Fight Club can sustain the twist but doesn't feel burdened by it. Take away Keyser Soze, and you lose the point of The Usual Suspects. Learn who Soze is before seeing the movie, and you will not be blown away by it. The Usual Suspects IS Keyser Soze.
One thing that did impress me, but did not blow me away, was Bryan Singer's visual style. He conjures up some great imagery and some really nice shots, but never lets any of this invade the storyline, which in a film like this you can't do.
But for the real stars, well I have four of them. The first is, of course, Keyser soze, which I have talked ad nauseum about. The second is Gabriel Byrne, who I personally think is much better in Miller's Crossing and is put in the position here as well to be the core of the film (because we all know Spacey wouldn't do that) and he does that well. While not breathtaking, his performance was very good and stood out to me.

The third is my man Benicio Del Toro, who I think is one of the greatest actors working today. He makes a bold choice to make it so that the audience can't understand a thing he is saying, in a film where you are required to dissect every piece of dialogue no less. He is incredibly fun to watch and though not as subtle as he is in some of his later works, he is fantastic.
The last is probably going to come as a bit of a shock, as no one agrees with me on this one, but I think this man is the most overlooked actor working today, and that is Pete Postlethwaite. He plays the lawyer Kobayashi, basically Soze's right hand man. I just love watching him say this dialogue. He just has sucha sense of pathos that you feel that every word that leaves his mouth is important. Please look for him more often as he is a fantastic actor.
Everyone else here is good, and while Spacey stumbles at times, when given great dialogue (Like the line I put at the top of this review) He doesn't miss. And I think that anyone who doesn't know the ending of this movie should check it out, especially while you're naive and innocent. but if you do know, there really isn't any point in seeing this movie.

So can someone please tell me, Who is Keyser Soze?

Verdict: A simple crime drama that has only entered the cultural lexicon because of who Keyser Soze really is.


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